Whether or not Woody Allen has permanently lost his touch is a topic of great debate and discussion. While I think that we can all basically agree that the hey day is over (Celebrity, Curse of the Jade Scorpion and the one with Debra Messing are far from great works), films like Deconstructing Harry, Sweet and Lowdown, and Match Point
make a strong case that he's still pretty good (sometimes); and there's one particular late-period movie that seems to have charmed everyone whose seen it and strangely, it's probably one of the least seen (well, except for Cassandra's Dream).
The movie is Manhattan Murder Mystery and the cast of old reliables like Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Angelica Houston, and Allen himself seem to be having so much fun on screen that they're really a pleasure to watch. It's a classic re-tooling of a noir plot – the seemingly least capable people become involved in solving an increasingly complicated crime; a concept that worked wonders just a few years later when it propelled the plot of The Big Lebowski.
In this case, the amateur sleuth is an expectedly skittish Keaton, a woman feeling her late middle age creep and wondering if she and her husband (Allen) have become too dull and predictable. She's primed for rampant speculation when her neighbor's wife dies suddenly and (possibly) mysteriously; with the aid of an equally insecure and adventure craving Alda, she becomes embroiled in stake outs and vanishing corpses.
The hijinks that ensue in this succinct little thriller are pleasurable enough to satisfy viewers on both sides of the “Has Woody Allen become a total dud?” debate; the scene with a prerecorded message played to capture the killer had me laughing like it was Annie Hall. Plus, it's perfect for “family viewing” – you can watch it with parents and/or grandparents and they're almost guaranteed to love it.